Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gallo Offers More Bluster on Ethics Law

Good story by Paul Kirby today:
Mayor Shayne Gallo said Monday that if the Common Council adopts an ethics law prohibiting specific political party activity by employees or elected officials he will veto it.

Gallo said the law, which was crafted by Alderman Matthew Dunn, D-Ward 1, with help of Alderman Thomas Hoffay, D-Ward 2, prohibits the right of people to participate freely in elections.

By adopting such a law, Gallo said, party leaders would control fundraising efforts and prevent “grassroots campaigns” from occurring in the city and making elections only available “to the party’s elite candidates.”

“Should Mr. Dunn’s proposal be adopted it would be a throwback to the corrupt, bygone days of Boss Tweed,” Gallo said.
Gallo is blowing serious smoke on this one. If anything, the law would prevent what Gallo says he fears (in fact, Gallo likely wants the opposite of what he says in the article).

Kirby then offers us a bit of analysis of the language in question, which is something I had been a bit confused over:
Among other things, the Dunn/Hoffay ethics proposal would prevent the mayor and city department heads from holding “political party office.”

It also says that “a city officer or employee, the mayor and department heads shall not directly or indirectly ask anyone to contribute to the political campaign of a city officer or employee running for any elective office or the political campaign of anyone running for elective city office.”

Gallo has said he considers these provisions “unconstitutional.”

However, Dunn supplied an email from Mark Davies, who is executive director of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, and it says that “such restrictions are fairly common” for elected officials.

In the email, Davis says that the New York City prohibits officials with “substantial policy discretion” including elected officials such as the mayor from holding political party positions.”
"Substantial policy discretion" is shorthand for "in a position to dole out lots of crony jobs." In other words, the law would impose a thin firewall between policy and politics. Yet Gallo threatens a veto of this legislation, which was written by members of his own party.

Gallo seems to be on the wrong foot constantly, these days. He opposes Hein's plan for a SUNY Ulster satellite in downtown Kingston, then he's for it, then he wants to change the location. I have no idea where he stands now.

And he continues to be out-of-step on this ethics law, something on which he campaigned. Not cool.

But the voters will remember. One thing people can't stand is inconsistency. It's okay to be wrong if you're honest about it, as people respect individuals who can admit a mistake or thoughtfully change their minds.

But constantly shifting one's position is political suicide. Gallo's repeated stumbles on these issues will come back to haunt him.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Corruption with a "C"

So the state comptroller's office has been looking into the Town of Hurley's methods when it comes to hiring outside contractors to do town business. What it finds is that the town is sorely lacking when it comes to due diligence in this process:
Town officials did not procure any of the 10 professional services providers tested, who were paid $510,419, through any form of competitive process. In addition, the Board did not enter into written agreements with nine of these providers.

Town officials did not obtain the required quotations for purchases totaling $26,254 from six of 12 vendors tested.

Two Board members had conflicts of interests in Town contracts.

The Town's computer system has multiple users with administrative rights.

The Board did not develop formal policies and procedures for adding, deleting, updating, and monitoring network user accounts.

The Town did not have workers' compensation and disability benefits insurance on file for 13 vendors who were paid $252,599.
In a nutshell, Hurley awarded contracts to firms the board likes (without putting these contracts out to bid), and there were no written agreements clearly delineating the work to be done; officials spent close to $30k without even getting quotes as to the price for the wanted service; and the town's computer security is a mess (shocking, I know).

But the part about "conflicts of interest" is a bigger kettle of fish. If you've ever been to a town meeting, you know full well that local municipalities steer business to certain firms. This could be for services related to planning board activities (engineers, for instance), or doing the town books (a preferred accounting firm), or even managing the town's IT and website.

So, here's a question. Does Bonacic's law office, for example, get all this municipal business because they're the best at what they do, or because they firm's officers are really good a schmoozing the right people?

But I'm not just picking on Bonacic -- or Hurley, for that matter -- as this kind of thing is rampant in towns throughout NY State. Does your municipality's leadership reward its pals by choosing firms that are well-connected? Might be worth looking into. There are, I'm sure, municipalities that shoot straight, but I'm guessing that there are just as many, if not more, that engage in this kind of petty corruption.

And when no one is keeping tabs, how do we know that the contractor in question isn't padding its fees and then kicking-back some of that money to the elected officials who awarded the contract? We don't unless we have good checks and balances in place.

Let's hope the state comptroller keeps this up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Torrent of Cash

Once again our local papers are singling-out local subsidized housing developers for giving big bucks to elected officials. The THR's Steve Israel several days ago had a piece regarding the political contributions of Jonah Mandlebaum (Warwick Properties), Steve Aaron (Rivergate Development) and Hal Teitelbaum (Crystal Run). It turns out that each has given the maximum contribution, $60k, to Andrew Cuomo, which in some cases includes a second $60k from the spouse. The article then quotes Bill Mahoney of the NY Public Interest Research Group. "Hopefully, before his term is up, Cuomo will actually take some action," regarding these contributions, Mahoney say in the piece.

But guess what? You ain't seen nothing yet when it comes to cash having an influence over our electoral process, at least when it comes to federal races. The Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has opened up the spigots to such a degree that outside groups (those not directly connected with a candidate's campaign) can spend virtually any amount of money -- and without having to disclose its origins -- to the point where as much as $2 billion will be spent on this year's presidential race, alone. This amount will no doubt increase as the years go by.

And I can understand NYPIRG's well-intentioned attempts to level the playing field, even if I think it's a quixotic effort. The way things are now, states have a large say in how they conduct elections on the local level. So maybe it'll be possible to have multibillion-dollar federal races, while at the same time we have sparsely funded local and state races. But this seems unlikely. In fact, it's far more likely that over the long run states will have no choice but to follow the federal lead on campaign finance. It's going to be a cash bonanza for all who are involved, Democrat, Republican, and third parties.

In politics, for now, money = speech. For Israel to take issue with completely legal activity, and as a member of a paper whose parent company (News Corp, Fox News, etc) applauded the supreme court verdict, seems a bit hypocritical. And let's not forget that the THR will happily cash the checks of elected officials who want to advertize in the paper.

And, just for a quick note, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, reported to be the 14th richest person in the world, spent at least $5 million on an independent campaign for New Gingrich during the GOP primary (a lot of good it did him), and indicated that he was willing to spend upwards of $100 million to see the former Speaker of the House become president. And this is just one billionaire. There are lots of others out there who also have business to conduct. They too will no doubt spend lavishly to get what they want.

Everyone better get used to this, because it's going to be with us for some time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ulster Police Chief in Deep Trouble

Many of you no doubt read about Town of Ulster Police Chief Matthew Taggard. He was relieved of duty in connection with allegations over a coverup of sexual misconduct:
A decade-old allegation of sexual misconduct has come back to haunt one of Ulster County’s most prominent lawmen, leading to criminal charges and a potentially career-ending scandal.

On June 28, Town ofUlster Police Chief Matthew Taggardwas arrested and charged with a single misdemeanor count of official misconduct.
In rereading this whole article (which I encourage you to do), I'm struck by several points. While it doesn't come right out and say it, there are hints that this could turn out to be a very ugly scandal that could receive national attention.

First, it appears everyone knew that Taggard had been accused of sexual misconduct. But, given that there was no proof, Taggard skated. In fact, he continued to advance his career without a hitch, becoming a lieutenant and eventually chief.

But then this bombshell drops. And now those old rumors are starting to take on a more tangible shape. Which is why I find it odd that DA Carnright said this:
Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright and other officials have been tight-lipped about the allegations against Taggard. In the June 28 press release, Carnright stated that the official misconduct charge was based on an allegation that Taggard “was aware that sexual crimes were being committed in an adjoining jurisdiction and failed to take any steps to prevent same or to notify the appropriate authorities.”

But in comments following Taggard’s arrest, Carnright said the charge was rooted in an earlier investigation of the veteran lawman by state police. According to the DA, the allegations against Taggard surfaced 10 years ago and involved criminal sexual misconduct with underage victims. At the time, state police investigators conducted a number of interviews but never made an arrest.
Okay. Covering up a crime committed by someone else, while awful, isn't exactly the same as committing the crime yourself. But it's certainly a career-ending mistake for someone like Taggard.

But later in the article Town Supervisor Jim Quigley appears to spill the beans:
Quigley said that after learning about the arrest, he had opened his own inquiry into Taggard’s tenure with the department, including requesting records related to Taggard’s work with a police cadet program. According to Quigley records show that Taggard was the advisor of a Police Explorer post linked to the Town of Ulster Police Department between 1995 and sometime between 2002 and 2005 when the program ended. The program is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America and provides mentoring and experience for youth ages 14 to 20 interested in a career in law enforcement. Quigley added, however, that his examination of the records shows no evidence of wrongdoing related to the Explorer program. Indeed, the post received a number of grants through the state Department of Criminal Justice Services and other sources, Quigley said.

“I have no knowledge of any complaints and no one that I’ve spoken to can recall any complaints,” said Quigley.
So, why is Quigley looking into an old Explorers program if all Taggard did was obstruct justice in another jurisdiction? And the Explorers program, unless I'm mistaken, is exclusively for boys (someone please correct me if I'm wrong about this).

So, which is it? Did Taggard help a friend evade, say, a statutory rape charge? Or, was he somehow using his position of power in the same manner as Jerry Sandusky used his? There's a very big difference between these two potentials.

And then there's this:
Carnright, meanwhile, said Monday the investigation into Taggard remains active and that the case might end up before a grand jury, which could weigh felony charges in the matter.
This is pure speculation, but it's just possible that the charges against Taggard stem from the fact that an old victim has come forward (which makes sense given the media attention the Penn State coverup has received; people feel emboldened when they see others standing up to demand justice), which would would dovetail with the fact that Quigley is looking into the old Explorers program.

Let's hope this turns out to be much ado about nothing. But I get the feeling we're going to be hearing a lot more about this one.

Yet Another Sinkhole

There is obviously a very big underlying problem here, one that might require the assistance of better engineers (no offense to the folks who are working on this) than we currently have on site:
Another sinkhole has formed in the same area of Washington Avenue where two already have opened this year, and the original hole has expanded significantly in recent days, the city engineer says.

Ralph Swenson said “three dump truck loads” of earth have disappeared at the original sinkhole in the past five days, causing it to expand and create another hole 10 feet away.

The expansion of the first sinkhole has shifted earth, which caused a stormwater pipe to become “undermined” and led to blacktop collapse on the road, Swenson said.
Strong thunderstorms predicted for today -- so strong, in fact, that Cuomo's office issued a warning yesterday:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging New Yorkers to be prepared for severe thunderstorms.

Thursday’s storms are predicted to bring heavy rain, high winds and hail that may cause widespread power outages. Forecasters say an isolated tornado is also possible.

The areas most likely to be impacted are Connecticut down through New York City to points north and west. There’s also a chance for widespread thunderstorms in New Jersey that could pack damaging winds and heavy rainfall.
These sink holes are about to get worse, given the volume of water that will be dumped on us today. Not sure what needs to be done to stabilize this situation, but it might make sense to reach out to the Army Corps of Engineers on this one. It keeps getting worse, and nothing they've done thus far has had any effect.

Let's hope these sinkholes stay contained to surface streets and don't spread to any nearby homes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My God, Who Wrote This Idiocy?

Following up on Robin's post, not only is it ridiculous, it's also sub-literate:
Please note the Charter Revision Commission has scheduled for itself the noted public hearing. There has been discussion as to the validity of said Commission. The hearing is included in this update for administrative purposes, and in no way serves as recognition or confirmation that said Commission exists or does not exist.
Kafka couldn't have said it any better...whatever the hell it is. Seriously, can anyone make heads or tails of this statement? The commission may not exist? Huh?

If Landon Chapman wrote this he should be forced to take remedial writing courses at SUNY Orange (the county in which he actually lives).

And if they apply to their rejiggering of the County Charter the same level of intellectual rigor they put into the above statement, we are righteously hosed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Terry's Off Her Game

One of the things the Bernardos seem to be good at is starting, and than neglecting, blogs. Every few weeks we get this breathless announcement, usually in the comments section, to "check out this new blog" which will really show her detractors a thing or two, yes sir! And for a few weeks we get goofy updates about county politics that are wildly off base -- and then nothing.

For example, there's the Ulster County Crusader. This blog was started on May 6, and its most recent post was well over a month ago on June 10. Six posts total, and then...silence. I guess she got tired of updating that one.

Her replacement blog was the ridiculous Mocking Robin, a blog that is fairly self-explanatory. Mocking Robin was started on May 26, with its most recent post on July 10. Despite the fact that Terry was going strong for a while, Mocking Robin also appears to be withering on the vine.

And, finally, we have the Ulster Asylum, which is the newest entry into the Bernardo pantheon of stellar online writing. This one was started on July 5, just a few days before the most recent Mocking Robin post. And it too seems to be a flash-in-the-pan. Its last entry was almost two weeks ago.

So there you have it. She's fighting back, dammit! At least when she feels like it. After all, legislatin' is haaard work and she needs her beauty rest, dontcha know.

I wonder when the next pro-Bernardo blog will pop up and what it will look like. I expect an announcement any day now.

UPDATE: Grammar corrected.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Even More Cronyism

This really is sickening:

244 FAIR STREET www.co.ulster.ny.us
KINGSTON, NEW YORK, 12401 www.ulstercountyny.gov

JULY 18, 2012

Contact: Fawn Tantillo
(845) 340-3699


Chairman Terry Bernardo today announced she is appointing Victoria Fabella as the Legislative Clerk. “I want to thank Chairman Bernardo for selecting and putting her trust in me as the next Clerk of the Ulster County Legislature.” Fabella said. “I am truly grateful for the support I have received from both sides of the aisle. It is an honor to serve as Clerk under this Legislative Body.”

Fabella is a graduate of John A. Coleman High School and has a BA from Seton Hall University. She has over a decade of Human Resources experience, a large portion of which was as Director of Human Resources and Administration for a local television station before being appointed Deputy Clerk of the Legislature a little over two years ago. Fabella lives with her husband and two children in Wallkill, NY.

Bernardo also announced the appointment of Krista Barringer as a Deputy Clerk. “I am truly honored to be able to work with and for the people of Ulster County.” Barringer said. “This is an honor and privilege that I respect and value.”

Barringer has a Bachelor of Social Work from Wheelock College, a Masters of Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University, and is a Licensed Master Social Worker in New York State. She served as the Ulster County Community Liaison for New York State Senator John Bonacic before taking this appointment and she was the former Director of the Ulster County Youth Bureau. Barringer lives in Saugerties, NY with her husband and three children.

After proving to be a valuable staff member, Franklin Reggero was also promoted to Senior Legislative Employee. Reggero is a retired Army Master Sergeant, a graduate Saugerties High School and SUNY Ulster and currently attends classes at Rockefeller College of Public Policy.

“I am excited about the new position and excited to serve the people of Ulster County”, said Reggero who lives with his wife and daughter in Saugerties, NY.

Fabella is looking forward to working with Legislators, staff and the various departments throughout Ulster County. “I am confident that the new staffing structure will allow for a well-functioning, professional office to provide excellent service to the deserving people of our great County,” she said.

All new salaries represent a reduction from the last compensation level for each position.

Fawn A. Tantillo
Deputy Clerk - Confidential Secretary to Chair Bernardo
Ulster County Legislature
(845) 340-3699
So, let's review. Patty Jacobsen, who works for the Ulster County Board of Elections and should know better, gets a dead woman's signature for Terry Bernardo's petition for legislator. Vicky Fabella is Patty's daughter, who got $6k raise as soon as Bernardo became chair and now gets another raise for her loyalty. Of course, Karen Binder's seat hasn't even cooled off, not to mention the harassment Binder underwent when Bernardo investigated the dying woman over the comp time she was using for medical appointments (which is a matter of public record and about which I will have more to say in the coming days).

Krista Barringer is a Bernardo pal who was bounced from her position as Director of the Ulster County Youth Bureau by Mike Hein, ostensibly for budget reasons but really because Barringer was using her position to enrich the Bernardos by steering youth bureau business to Skate Time 209. Barringer leaves another crony job working for Bonacic.

And Frank Reggero gets a raise because, oh, I suppose he peels a mean grape or something.

And all of them are making less money than their prior counterpart, dontcha know. Except the truth is Bernardo continues to spend money on her pals like a drunken sailor, now likely to be well over $100k more than the previous leadership spent for the same services (it was previously $96k more according to Robin Yess's meticulous calculations).

Fiscal conservatism in action, folks.

And it pays to be a Bernardo flunkie.

Ulster, State Leaders Want NYCDEP to Pay Up

As I've said before, this issue isn't about Democrat or Republican. The water belongs to all of us, and we should work together on this one. And it appears that this is what's happening:
TWENTY-ONE county, municipal and state representatives have signed a letter calling on the state to levy $13.5 million in penalties against the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, claiming it violated environmental laws by sending muddy water from the Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus Creek.

The letter was sent to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is considering allowing the city agency to continue the releases that have occurred between October and April over the past two years.

The state agency has threatened the city with a $1.55 million fine for failing to clean up the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County, where the city Department of Environmental Protection previously used a chemical settling agent to separate solids from water piped downstate from the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County. The releases from the Ashokan into the 32-mile Lower Esopus, which empties into the Hudson River at Saugerties, were allowed as an alternative.
And that money could go a long way toward ensuring that the Lower Esopus is proteced:
“Substantial stream improvements across Ulster County should be paid for by the city as part of the civil penalty, and the (state) DEC should stop standing in the way of flood-mitigation efforts,” the letter says. “The DEC should partner with Ulster County’s communities and residents utilizing a more substantial fine to the DEP to implement true flood-control and mitigation measures.”
The letter was actually released from Bonacic's office, an elected official who on more than one occasion has been the subject of criticism on this blog. But this is one he gets right, so kudos to the senator for standing up to the city. We're going to need all the muscle we can get when it comes to fighting the NYCDEP.

Full text of the letter below.

071612 Release Joint Opposition Letter to NY DEC Filed(1)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Holy Crap!

What the hell is going on with this company?:
The Woodland Pond retirement community, which is owned and operated by HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, lost just over $18 million for the period of 2008-10, tax records show.

The news comes on the heels of HealthAlliance announcing it plans to close Kingston Hospital because that facility and Benedictine Hospital, which are jointly operated by the company, lost a combined $10 million in the 2008-11 period.

Income tax returns filed by HealthAlliance and available online show Woodland Pond’s 2008-10 red ink totaled $18,007,262. Records for 2011 were not available.
And you have to wonder what else they aren't telling us.

I Don't Think They Care

The Liberty Coalition keeps bringing up the fact that the "fiscally conservative" Bernardo gang was supposed to be saving the taxpayers money. Instead, Bernardo's tenure as chair is costing the taxpayers close to $100k more than it did in previous year:
The best part is that although various claims have been made by both Bernardo and Chapman about the savings taxpayers received by not paying Chapman benefits (which he, of course, already gets from the taxpayers as a NYS Senate employee!) is that the actual amounts of employee health benefits paid to Legislature employees has increased from 2011 to 2012 by $96,261.60, and that’s with 10 fewer Legislators!
This is a valid point. Elected officials like to posture and style themselves as being one thing or another. Bernardo talks the talk of fiscal conservatism, but when it comes to walking the walk she and her pals are nothing more than money-grubbers hoping to cash-in for as long as possible. Bernardo's pledge to reduce spending is nothing more than hot air designed to hoodwink voters.

So, I applaud the fact that there are sincere conservatives out there, like Robin, who want to genuinely reduce the size of government, even if I happen disagree with this philosophy. The reason I applaud this is that one can usually negotiate and find common ground with sincere people.

The Bernardos, on the other hand, are nothing more than opportunists who will say and do anything to get what they want, as Queen Terry's crony spending spree proves. If she were sincere, this wouldn't even be a question. One of the few areas over which she has almost sole control is the spending within her own office. The fact that we the taxpayers are footing the bill for nearly double what the same services cost under the previous leadership shows that she was never sincere -- which doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

So, we can flog away at Bernardo and her bunch of unqualified hangers-on, but you might as well be screaming at a brick wall. She and her flunkies don't care, and they're laughing all the way to the bank with our money.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Breaking the Law...Again

The Bernardo gang's blog toadies -- like the Mojo, Mocking Robin, and the rash of other Bernardo-backed blogs that have popped up over the past few months -- like to talk about "following the letter of the law" when it comes to criticizing others. But when the Bernardos are the ones breaking the law, we have total silence. And what are they being silent about? This coup against the Charter Commision:
As County Executive, I have, and will always side with the people of Ulster County over the politicians. This is why I feel so strongly about what I see as attempts to corrupt the revision process and undermine the work of the Commission, as well as attempts to undermine the fundamentals of the Charter itself.

It has become evident that a small group of Legislators have decided to attempt to nullify the nine months of work of the Commission and draft their own Charter revisions, which they plan to advance instead of the Commission’s proposals.

These revisions are the end result of a closed door meeting held in violation of the New York State Open Meetings Law, and in stark contrast to the transparency of this Commission.

This Commission posted its minutes as well as all proposed changes on the County’s website weekly and all of the Commission’s meetings were open to the public. This attempt to subvert the process by a small group of Legislators can be interpreted in only one way; as a simple power grab by individuals who long for the bygone times of Legislative control of operations, inefficiency and an era that saw a grossly mismanaged jail project and accountability was non-existent.
So let me ask you guys, how do you respond to the CE's charge that you're a bunch of criminals?

These legislators want to de-fang the CE's office so they can continue to feed at the trough. Forget about what Republican Gerry Benjamin and the bipartisan charter commission worked on for months. This bunch of rubes knows better.

I wonder if Patricia Doxsey or the other reporters at the Freeman have reached out to Benjamin to ask him to comment about this latest stupidity from our legislature?

And shame on any Democrats who participated in this stupidity. You guys should really know better. This blog is going to make sure people remember your actions come election time.

UPDATE: Typo fixed

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday On My Mind

Summer is a bad time to write about county politics. Everyone takes vacations and very little gets done. I suppose the upside is that, while our elected officials are off doing as little as possible, we can at least be assured they aren't gettin' busy screwing something up. Of course, this theory doesn't always hold up.

So, with this in mind, here's a funny cat video:

I'd say the cat wins.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gallo: Don't Pay Any Attention to What I Said on Monday

Gallo now supports Hein's SUNY Ulster plan:
Mayor Shayne Gallo apparently now supports a plan to turn Sophie Finn Elementary School in the city into a satellite campus of Ulster County Community College.

Following a meeting on Wednesday with County Executive Michael Hein, Gallo released a statement in which he said he fully supports the project, which he called “an innovative and cooperative plan that will enhance the quality of life of our residents and create an educational corridor in Midtown Kingston.”

On Monday, Gallo called the plan “well-intentioned” but said he had serious concerns about the ramifications to the area around Sophie Finn, which is on Mary’s Avenue, and the rest of the city.

He said a number of his concerns could have been addressed if he had been “looped in” to the initial planning of the project.
"Looped in," as in no one consulted Gallo about the plan, thus his feelings were hurt. And we can't have that, can we?

Anyway, it's good that Gallo had his arm twisted has been persuaded to back the proposal, which should go along way toward helping reinvigorate the neighborhood.

Here's a little Dinah Washington to celebrate, Mr. Mayor:

(Hat-tip to the anonymous commenter who predicted Gallo's about-face)

Lace Curtain Mill Moving Forward

I'm sure this is a well-intentioned plan. But I also wonder whether this could end up as another RUPCO boondoggle like the equally well-intentioned Buttermilk Falls:
A housing renovation project at a former lace curtain factory in Midtown will not harm the environment, the city Planning Board has concluded.

The board made the declaration in a unanimous vote on Monday, according to City Planner Suzanne Cahill.

Cahill said the project, proposed by the Rural Ulster Preservation Co. (RUPCO) still needs site plan approval and is expected to be further reviewed by the Planning Board at a meeting in September.
Has there been any kind of demographic study to determine if there's enough demand for such housing in Kingston? Again, there are lots of low income folks, of the non-artist variety, who are also in need of affordable housing. Shouldn't their needs take priority over a project like this one?

The Buttermilk Falls town homes in Ellenville sit mostly empty several years after their completion. RUPCO cannot give them away, apparently. Grated, the housing market took a dive during the period in which the project was built. But last I'd heard they had sold only one or two units out of a total of 15.

Is this going to be another beautifully renovated, yet mostly empty, project? And at $15 million, we're talking four times what the Buttermilk Falls project cost. I hope they've actually done their homework this time.

Ken Ronk Thinks He's Smarter Than Gerry Benjamin

Yeah, I know. And when you've finished cleaning up the coffee you just reflexively spit all over your monitor and keyboard, take a look and see for yourself what Ronk says about changes to the new charter:
“We know what works and what doesn’t work.”
After all, Ronk knows much more about government than a man with an MA and a PhD in, um, American Government. Who is this Gerry Benjamin to tell this brilliant champion of the common man how government should work?

There are others, however, who beg to differ:
“It has become evident that a small group of legislators have decided to attempt to nullify the nine months of work of the commission and draft their own charter revisions, which they plan to advance instead of the commission’s proposals,” Hein said, reading from a prepared statement to the Charter Revision Commission on Tuesday.

“This attempt to subvert the process by a small group of legislators can be interpreted in only one way: a simple power grab by individuals who long for the bygone times of legislative control of operations, inefficiency and an era that saw a grossly mismanaged jail (construction) project and accountability that was nonexistent.”
One of the stricking points has to do with the county executive having subpoena power, something the clowns at the legislature don't like. I wonder why that could be? It's not like any of them are less-than honest stalwarts of all that is righteous and good in the world, right?

Of course, imagining someone with the brain pan of Len Bernardo having subpoena power would give anyone reasonable person nightmares, so Ronk may have a point.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gallo Opposes Hein's SUNY Ulster Plan

It seems that whenever someone proposes an idea that will help Kingston's low income/minority residents, Gallo is opposed to it:
Mayor Shayne Gallo says a plan to move a satellite campus of Ulster County Community College to the Sophie Finn Elementary School building is “well-intentioned” but seriously flawed.

Gallo said this week that many of the problems he sees with the plan could have been addressed if County Executive Michael Hein had included him in discussions before the plan was announced.
So, these "disagreements" could have been worked out? Which disagreements are we talking about?:
Under Hein’s plan, the community college’s satellite campus, now located in the Business Resource Center in the town of Ulster, would move to the vacated elementary school on Mary’s Avenue in Kingston, and county offices located in the city in buildings on Flatbush and South Manor avenues in Kingston would move to the vacated college space.

The two county buildings in the city then would be sold and put back on the tax rolls, Hein has said.

Gallo said the plan doesn’t take into account the impact on elementary school students and their parents, who are now able to walk to school, or the potential neighborhood disruption from as many as 600 people going to the college’s satellite center on a daily basis.

“It will not only depreciate property values but will destabilize the neighborhood,” the mayor said.
Yep, having shiftless poor people hanging around is never a good idea, especially as "they" don't want to be educated in the first place:
Gallo also questioned Hein’s contention that moving the college’s satellite campus to a building near Kingston High School (Sophie Finn is directly behind KHS) would better serve some of the county’s least-affluent students by eliminating transportation as an obstacle to higher education.

“(Hein) stated people will be able to walk to this campus from Midtown. I don’t know who would be doing that,” Gallo said, adding that more than 50 percent of Midtown residents are African-American and “the graduation rate is atrocious.”

“Those in need, unfortunately, didn’t pass their high school curriculum,” he said.
You see? "They" don't want to learn. So screw 'em.

But here's a memo, Mr. Mayor: you don't need a high school diploma to enroll in community college. While most CCs don't recommend it, you can apply and begin taking classes before you receive your GED.

Again, Gallo seems not to like helping out certain poor people. I wonder why that is?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kingston Hospital to Close

While this probably does ultimately make sense, the loss of jobs is going to hurt everyone in this area:
Kingston Hospital would close and all hospital services would be moved to the Benedictine Hospital campus on Mary’s Avenue within the next 18 months, under a proposal Monday by HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley.

David Lundquist, president and chief executive officer of HealthAlliance, the parent company of the two hospitals, and Cynthia Lowe, the chairwoman of HealthAlliance’s Board of Directors, made the announcement Monday after a meeting with officials from the state Department of Health.

In interviews, both said the plan to keep Benedictine open is based on recommendations by physicians, members of the community, and the fact that the Mary’s Avenue campus presents more flexibility than Kingston Hospital on Broadway.
And how many jobs will we be losing? HealthAlliance isn't saying:
Lowe and Lundquist said that the decision to create a single hospital campus will mean job loss, but neither could say exactly how many positions will be eliminated. Lundquist said that the job loss numbers will not be known until a final Certificate of Need document is developed in the fall.

UIster County Executive Michael Hein said his administration would do what it can to assist.
They're not saying, but not because they don't know. They've already crunched the numbers, believe me. The real reason they're not releasing them, I think, is because it's really going to be a big hit. How big a hit? We'll have to wait and see, but I'd bet good money that it's going to be ugly.

Here's to hoping I'm wrong.

Hey, Mike? Why not ask HealthAlliance to stop being so mealy-mouthed and tell us the bad news already? Give us the real skinny.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Another Metaphor Opens on Washington Street

Another example of how cutting spending on infrastructure will eventually bite you in the ass:
A second sinkhole has opened on Washington Avenue, prompting serious concerns about the stability of the road, a Kingston official said today.

City Engineer Ralph Swenson said the new sinkhole is just 30 feet south of a sinkhole that opened earlier this year. That hole has led to traffic detours and headaches for nearby residents, and it led the city to borrow $1.6 million to make repairs.

Swenson said high temperatures expected this weekend could cause both holes to open even further as blacktop becomes “more pliable” in extreme heat.
It's beginning to look as if this problem is more extensive than was first thought.

I think we should cut spending some more. Who needs roads and sewers?

On a more realistic note, bond rates are as low as they are ever likely to be. We need major infrastructure repairs everywhere, not just in Kingston. Bridges, roads, tunnels, sewers, water systems, etc., are becoming increasingly decrepit.

So, let's see, we have incredibly low interest rates, major infrastructure repairs that are needed, so we should...cut our bloated government!

Anyone else see the logical disconnect here? Let's borrow some of this cheap money and fix our country, and in the process put millions of Americans back to work.

This isn't rocket science. Neglect your property, and your economy, and it will fall into a state of decay. It just so happens that the property in question is the whole freakin' country.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bernardo Watch: There's No "There" There

Normally when a legislator wants a leadership position, it's because he or she has an agenda to enact. This agenda is typically worked up into a series of bills, or resolutions in this case, which are first presented to the appropriate committees, and then the full legislature. Policy disagreements are discussed, compromises are hammered out. Eventually a vote is taken. The bill/resolution passes or it doesn't.

I bring this up because I think Robin is missing the forest for the trees (or she's simply being too polite to come right out and say what everyone already knows):
So Bernardo claims that Hein refuses to discuss any reforms she’s suggested, including the RRA – when the Ulster County Legislature, as the County’s policy making body, has the authority to create new policies without Mike Hein’s authorization to do so. In other words, Hein is the operational guy who has to run the County within the policies established by the Legislature. Addressing the RRA problem is the Legislature’s job, but if they don’t address it, I bet Hein will in his next budget.

Here’s how it should work. A legislative committee – for example, the Environmental, Energy and Technology Committee chaired by Legislator Carl Belfiglio – reviews a Resolution for a change in policy on the RRA, which would have hypothetically been submitted by a Legislator – maybe even Legislator Bernardo, who in her own words has ideas for reforms. The committee, after discussion of the Resolution’s merits, would vote on whether the Resolution should go to the full legislature for a vote. If it’s a good Resolution, then the entire body would vote on it and hopefully pass this new piece of Legislation. If they pass it and it won’t fly financially, Hein can veto it.
The reason we haven't seen a single policy proposal from Bernardo (if I'm wrong about this, please point out any policy proposals that Bernardo has supported and pushed through the legislature, because I honestly can't think of one), is because she has no policy proposals.

Instead, she keeps passing the buck to Hein, who probably has some good ideas, but is an executive not a legislator. Hein can lobby, he can suggest, he can even help write the resolutions. What he can't do is make law all by himself. For that, you need a legislative body.

So, when are we going to see a policy proposal from Bernardo that doesn't involve firing someone and giving the job to one of her flunkies? I'd say, "never." The only reason Bernardo wanted the leadership post is her vanity. Every legislative session is nothing more than a homecoming pageant with Bernardo as the queen.

In other words, she's got nuthin.'

It Ain't Over in NY-13

This is interesting:
The city Board of Elections is scheduled to start counting about 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots in the contested Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District.

The race appeared decided last week on election night, with Rep. Charles Rangel seemingly holding a sizeable lead in his campaign to hold onto his seat. But the vote margin shrunk, leading some to wonder if state Sen. Adriano Espaillat conceded too soon.

A tally released by the Board of Elections last weekend showed Rangel had a lead of 802 votes.

Board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez says the count of the outstanding ballots is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. It could lead to a full manual recount if the final vote difference is less than one-half of 1 percent of all votes cast.
Rangel's lead has been shrinking as more ballots come in. And there are apparently other strange things happening:
It’s a bizarre situation that just keeps getting weirder, a strange case of missing precincts, questionable ballots and utter confusion over who’s to blame for the mess and when the race might be settled.

What’s known is this: As of Friday evening, 32 precincts – six percent of all votes cast – had yet to be accounted for. And another 2,447 affidavit ballots and 667 absentee votes hadn’t been counted yet either. According to the city Board of Elections, Rangel’s lead over second-place finisher state Sen. Adriano Espaillat stood at 1,032 votes, with enough outstanding ballots to alter the outcome.
There's no doubt that, overall, Rangel has been good for his district, historically one of the overlooked urban areas here in the Northeast. But a crook, is a crook, is a crook, so I won't be sorry to see him get bounced. Dismantling Rangel's machine, on the other hand....

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More on the Mystery Man

For those of you late to the game, Sandy Mathes -- a Bernardo flunky who was previously pulling down $300k per year as the head of the Greene County IDA, and is now pillaging Ulster County coffers for another $37.5 for doing... nothing, apparently -- has been quite the mystery man. Just what does he do all day? Does he keep a log of his travels and the people with whom he deals? Who does he report to? What kinds of checks and balances are in place to ensure this isn't some sort of crony, make-work job for someone's pal?

The reason I ask this that Mathes appears to be handing out business cards for his other endeavors (United Realty Management Group and Mathes Public Affairs) when he's supposed to be drumming up business for Ulster County.

This is a pretty sweet gig, you have to admit. You get a "job" that pays what would be an okay living-wage here in Ulster County for doing essentially nothing, and then you use that job as a springboard to market your other business activities (both of which are based in another county) -- all on the taxpayers dime.

Nice work if you can get it, or if you're buddy-buddy with the Bernardos.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hein Fires Salvo Against Bernardo

This is going to be fun to watch, especially given that Bernardo is a total lightweight compared to Hein:
The gloves came off, though, during an interview with the executive Thursday.

"Chairman Bernardo has, at this point, accomplished very little," Hein said. "The legislature has a responsibility to address issues that are difficult."

Bernardo retorts that Hein refuses to discuss any reforms she's suggested, and the Legislature has two years to implement its agenda.

"People are sick and tired of the 'blame-the-other-guy' politics that Mike Hein practices," she said.

The source of Hein's ire is legislative inaction on the solvency of the county's trash agency. The Resource Recovery Agency has had $1.4 million annual deficits since 2010.
Pass the popcorn.